an autodidact meets a dilettante…

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

Posts Tagged ‘history

love, monogamy, marriage and bonobos

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To claim that a union founded on convention has much chance of engendering love is hypocritical; to ask two spouses bound by practical, social and moral ties to satisfy each other sexually for their whole lives is pure absurdity.

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, p 478.

Discuss…

Canto: So we’re reading Beauvoir’s The second sex, inter alia, and though things have changed a bit in the WEIRD world over the past seventy-odd years, the section titled ‘The Married Woman’ does give something of a historical perspective, via the writings of such males as Montaigne, Balzac, Diderot and Kierkegaard, on the perceived differences between love and marriage and the problems that arise from these differences.

Jacinta: Yes, and marriage and monogamy are something of a mystery, historically, in spite of arguments such as those of Ferdinand Mount in The subversive family, that they are a more or less natural element of human life. We don’t know much about the state of affairs of early Homo sapiens or their ancestors and extinct cousins vis-a-vis monogamy. We do know that our closest living relatives, the bonobos and chimps, aren’t monogamous. And as to the claim, made by some, that humans are meant to be monogamous, that’s of the same type as, say, that humans are meant to be bipedal. No, it’s just something that we evolved to be, as some, but not all of us, socially evolved to be (more or less) monogamous.

Jacinta: The question is when? I suppose an obvious answer is when the concept of property became important, and the handing down of property to offspring. So that families started to become powerful rather than individuals. The beginnings of agriculture?

Canto: Some say division of labour may have played a part, though I’m not sure why…

Jacinta: Scientific American has an interesting online article from a few years ago reporting on studies that ‘aimed to find the best explanation for monogamy among three persistent hypotheses: female spacing, infanticide avoidance and male parental care’. So female spacing is just what it says: according to SciAm:

The female-spacing hypothesis posits that monogamy arises after females begin to establish larger territories to gain more access to limited food resources and, in the process, put more distance between one another. With females farther apart, males have a harder time finding and keeping multiple mates. Settling down with a single partner makes life easier, reducing a male’s risk of being injured while patrolling his territory and enabling him to ensure that his mate’s offspring are his own.

Canto: Females began to do that? In the bonobo world, female closeness was the key to their success – the females I mean, but perhaps also bonobos in general. It seems to me more likely that women would work in teams, helping each other to find and exploit resources, or am I being too hippy-happy-clappy?

Jacinta: Yeah maybe, but I note also the assumption here that males would have a hard time keeping multiple mates – the assumption being that early humans were already male-dominated.

Canto: Yes that quoted paragraph is all about the males… though to be fair most primate species are male-dominated. Still, one can’t assume…

Jacinta: Well, the proponents of this hypothesis did a statistical analysis of couple of thousand mammalian species, and found, apparently, that they started out solitary, but many, or some, switched to monogamy during their evolutionary history. How they proved that I’m not sure. They claimed that ‘monogamy most frequently occurred in carnivores and primates…’

Canto: Hang on. Isn’t it true that most primates are not monogamous?

Jacinta: Ahh, you’re probably thinking only of apes. There are hundreds of primate species, and they’re still being discovered. Three more were added in the last couple of years.

Canto: Shit! It’s all so hard to keep up with.

Jacinta: Lorises and lemurs, tarsiers and hatfuls of monkeys. Simians and prosimians, old world and new world, greater and lesser apes, etc. And actually, most primates are monogamous.

Canto: Well, I don’t think we should let it bother or constrain us. If we don’t feel monogamous, I mean individually speaking, we don’t have to be so.

Jacinta: But there are social constraints. They’ve loosened, no doubt, in the WEIRD world, but they’re there still. Besides, it’s convenient to settle down with one person, especially as you get older. It’s hard work trying to impress one partner after another into canoodling, what with rivalries and jealousies, and children who end up not knowing who’s what.

Canto: Well, yes – it does spice up life a bit, but too much spice can be overly acidic, or something. Still, I cling hopefully to the bonobo way…

Jacinta: Anyway, let’s get back to the second hypothesis – infanticide avoidance. I don’t think there’s much in this, re humans, but here’s the rationale:

Primates are uniquely at risk for infanticide: they have big brains that need time to develop, which leaves babies dependent and vulnerable for long periods after birth. And the killing of babies has been observed in more than 50 primate species; it typically involves a male from outside a group attacking an unweaned infant in a bid for dominance or access to females.

I suppose early hominids lived in smallish groups, like troupes of other primates, and I never considered that there’d be an alpha male among them, but I suppose it makes sense. But the bonobo part of me is in denial….

Canto: Well, warfare goes back a long way and capturing and raping women has always gone along with that, and it’s often been about capturing and expanding territory – e.g. Putin and Ukraine – and in those earlier times when resources were scarcer and harder-won, children, that’s to say the children of the defeated, would’ve been a burden. And the winners knew they could make more of their own with the captive women. It’s all quite plausible. I saw it in Empress Ki!

Jacinta: Hmmm. Having it off with captive women – essentially rape – doesn’t really fit with monogamy. In those Korean historicals you love there are wives and also concubines, and your alpha-maledom would be defined by the number of concubines you commanded, I’m guessing. So the male parental care hypothesis is most palatable to us moderns, I hope. Here’s what the SciAm site says:

When a baby becomes too costly in terms of calories and energy for a mother to raise on her own, the father who stays with the family and provides food or other forms of care increases his offspring’s chances of survival and encourages closer ties with the mother. A related idea… holds that the mere carrying of offspring by fathers fosters monogamy. Mothers have to meet the considerable nutritional demands of nursing infants. Yet for primates and human hunter-gatherers, hauling an infant, especially without the benefit of a sling or other restraint, required an expense of energy comparable to breast-feeding. Carrying by males could have freed females to fulfill their own energetic needs by foraging.

Canto: Yes, that’s a much more Dr Feelgood hypothesis, but interestingly this assumes an understanding of the relationship between sex and offspring. Males wouldn’t want to be caring for someone else’s kids, would they? And I’m sure I read somewhere that even some cultures living today, or at least not so long ago, aren’t clear about that relationship.

Jacinta: Well, and yet I’ve heard that bonobo females try to control who their adult sons mate with, as if they have an inkling… Bronislaw Malinowski (the first anthropologist I ever heard of) claimed that Trobriand Islanders thought that males played no role in producing children, but that’s been found to be a bit questionable. Seems plausible to me though. And something to aim for.

Canto: One thing anthropologists seem to say nothing about in these reflections on monogamy is love. This eternal bonding force that unites Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleo, Sonny and Cher…

Jacinta: Yeah, hormones they say. And when offspring come along, a certain force of duty, often reinforced by the community, or the State. So the male parent ends up staying, not really knowing whether it’s because he wants to or not. And one of the forces, a principle force, is societal, or cultural. He sees pairings-off all around him, physically reinforced by separate houses, fenced in. It’s the ‘norm’. With bonobos, no physical or, apparently, ethical barriers have been erected against polyandry/polygyny – to use human terms that would be meaningless to them. Does that mean no love? Of course not – on the contrary, our cousins can still teach us a thing or two about love…

References

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949

Ferdinand Mount, The subversive family, 1982

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-monogamy-has-deep-roots/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primate

https://slate.com/technology/2013/01/when-did-humans-realize-sex-makes-babies-evolution-of-reproductive-consciousness-of-the-cause-of-pregnancy.html

Written by stewart henderson

February 4, 2023 at 9:26 am

Australia Day? Hmmm…

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too black and white?

Canto: Okay, so today marks the day, 235 years ago, when British arrivals in what is now known as Sydney Harbour hoisted a British flag and declared that the land they were now standing on belonged to Britain. And this day has been commemorated ever since as Australia Day. These arrivals – a collection of convicted criminals, their minders and British government officials – had no idea of the extent of this ‘southern land’, the eastern coast of which had been mapped in around 1770 by Captain Cook, nor did it greatly concern them that the land was inhabited by other humans. The descendants of those earlier inhabitants are of course still with us, and many of them are still rather miffed about the events of that day, and its commemoration.

Jacinta: Interesting times for the Brits. Their colonies in North America had rebelled rather nastily. In fact, that’s why they were ‘down under’. They’d lost the American War of Independence a little over four years earlier, and the northern regions – Canada today – were too politically unstable for the British government to offload their felons. Having a whole new territory to call their own seemed an irresistible proposition. But I’m wondering – exactly how much did they know? You had Abel Tasman encountering what’s now Tasmania almost 150 years before, but managing to miss the mainland, and then there was Dampier…

Canto: Actually Tasman came up with one of the first names for the southern land – New Holland. He was Dutch of course. Or it might have been one of his compatriots – the Dutch were around the place in numbers at that time. Willem Janszoon was the first back in 1608, and then there was Torres, hence the Strait. But he was Spanish. On his second voyage, from Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, Tasman mapped much of Australia’s north and north-west coast. William Dampier used his maps in his own little trip to the west coast around 1699-1700, and himself charted the coast from Shark Bay to Broome, so, yes, the Brits did have a fair idea of the extent of this land. But getting back to Australia Day…

Jacinta: Well, yes, they must have had a fair idea of the enormity of their proposed acquisition, as well as the difficulty of maintaining such a claim to land so far from home. 

Canto: And they didn’t even call it Australia at the time. It was generally known as New Holland still. So the Dutch must surely have been miffed as well. 

Jacinta: Anyway there wasn’t much in the way of international law, or any sense of internationalism, in the eighteenth century, and it’s easy for us to be holier-than-thou when talking about the past. It’s another country, on dit. 

Canto: Well even so, the day has earned an alternative moniker, Invasion Day. What thinks thou?

Jacinta: Well I thinks it’s complicated, as always. I do think we should change the date, but to call it an invasion is a bit harsh. What Putin has done in Ukraine, I’d call that an invasion. Also what the USA did in Iraq (with the help of Australian forces). I’d say that what the Brits did in 1788 and subsequent decades was colonisation. You might call it illegal colonisation, but of course there were no legal avenues.

Canto: Like what Britain did throughout the world in its Empire days. 

Jacinta: And the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, Italians, Belgians… And there have been attempts to make them pay for the damage done, but we can’t expect too much can we?

Canto: Others have suggested that we – I mean Europeans – brought civilisation to benighted peoples. Or, to be more even-handed, that they ultimately might have brought more good than harm.

Jacinta: Well, anyway, Aboriginal people have a good argument – a very good argument I’d say, for objecting to the celebration of Australia occurring on January 26, because the landing of the first fleet was a disaster for a culture that had established itself here, no doubt with great difficulty at first, over tens of thousands of years. 

Canto: Yes it raises the question, what was this land like, in terms of climate and resources, 50,000 years ago? Probably a dumb question considering the enormity of the land-mass. 

Jacinta: Yes and I’ve often wondered how long the first ‘Australians’ have been here, I’ve heard so many conflicting estimates, and also it’s sometimes hard to tabulate with the out-of Africa story for H sapiens. 

Canto: You’re not kidding. Estimates of the Aboriginal presence here are all over the map. Australia’s National Museum, which is presumably reliable, says this:

Aboriginal people are known to have occupied mainland Australia for at least 65,000 years. It is widely accepted that this predates the modern human settlement of Europe and the Americas.

And I recall an Aboriginal elder (though he looked rather young) disputing the date with a sympathetic scientist, insisting that his people have been here since ‘the beginning of the world’. I’m not sure if he meant 4.6 billion or 13.8 billion years ago. 

Jacinta: Another site, an indigenous one I think, claims their presence could date as far back as 120,000 years, but no evidence or dating techniques mentioned. As to the other question – when H sapiens first left Africa, here’s something from a National Geographic article: 

Though it is unclear when some modern humans first left Africa, evidence shows that these modern humans did not leave Africa until between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago. Most likely, a change in climate helped to push them out.

So if these dates can be trusted – and I remain skeptical – the 65,000ya date for arriving in Australia is plausible. 

Canto: So getting back to Australia/Invasion Day, what is to be done?

Jacinta: Well, to me, the screamingly obvious solution would be to celebrate the day when Australia ceased to be a colony and became an independent nation. That was 1901 I think…

Canto: Would this be acceptable to first Australians? They didn’t exactly have much in the way of rights in 1901.

Jacinta: Did anyone have rights before the 1948 Declaration? People are always screaming about rights these days, they don’t seem to realise how recent the concept is. 

Canto: Hang on – Olympe de Gouges, The Declaration of the Rights of Woman (September 1791)..

Jacinta: Yeah, yeah, off with her head. And the ‘divine right of kings’, and droit du seigneur. It’s a human invention, and relatively recent, and easily manipulated, obviously. But still useful, admittedly. But we digress… I think the establishment of an independent Australian government (Federation), that’s a national occasion to celebrate, I think – but that occurred on January 1, when we’re traditionally blethered. Not being a nationalist of any kind, I wouldn’t be waving a flag around on the day, whatever date they choose. But I’ll take the holiday thanks. 
 
Canto: Wikipedia has an interesting article, ‘Australia Day debate’, which sets out various proposals for alternative dates. One that sticks out for me is May 9, though it might be a bit obscure. It celebrates our new capital, Canberra, with the opening of the old Parliament House there in 1927, and the new one in 1988.  
 
Jacinta: Yes, obscure is the word. But why politicians – who always seem to be more conservative than the general public – baulk at changing the date, which is obviously about British ‘ownership’ of a super-massive piece of real estate, is beyond me. It’s obscene, to be honest. We can recognise our history, and weigh the good and bad elements, without using that date for our founding as a nation. After all, it just isn’t. It’s the date of the founding of a penal colony on the other side of the world, with obviously disastrous consequences, at least in the short term, for its earliest inhabitants, about which we knew nothing at the time except that they were, ‘unfortunately’, in the way…
 
Canto: Well, as you say, politicians tend to be a conservative, ‘don’t rock the boat’ lot. Look at their opposition to same-sex marriage which was so out of kilter with the general population. It’s just a matter of chipping away…

References

https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/evidence-of-first-peoples

https://www.nla.gov.au/faq/who-was-the-first-european-to-land-on-australia

http://www.workingwithindigenousaustralians.info/content/History_2_60,000_years.html

https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/their-footsteps-human-migration-out-africa

Written by stewart henderson

January 28, 2023 at 12:01 pm

Imagining a Bonobo magazine, then back to harsh reality – Taiwan, Iran, Cuba, the UAE

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Jacinta: I have this fantasy of going back in time to my younger self, a few decades ago, knowing what I know now (so that I could invest in companies I now know have been successful, and wouldn’t have to work ‘for the man’). I’d start a magazine promoting female empowerment, highlighting female high achievers in science, art, politics and business, and I’d call the magazine Bonobo. It would of course be ragingly successful, promoting the cause of women and bonobos in equally dizzying proportions…

Canto: Yeah, and I have this fantasy of going back to pre-adolescent days and changing sex. Gender reassignment and all that, but I’d definitely be a lesbian.

Jacinta: And later you’d land a plum job, working for Bonobo. But returning to the 21st century, and I’m disappointed to hear that Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s President, recently resigned as chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party, due to its poor showing in recent local elections. The opposition Kuomintang, a party with a pretty dubious history, tends to be pro-China – that’s to say, the Chinese Testosterone Party – so I’m not sure what’s going on there. I’ve read that the elections were fought mostly on local issues, but it’s still a worry. We might do a deeper dive on the topic in the near future. I read about Taiwan’s new democracy in Glimpses of Utopia, by the author and Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney, Jess Scully, and it sounded exciting – I recall one Taiwanese commentator saying something like ‘because we’re a new democracy we’re not hidebound by tradition [unlike the USA with its revered and hopelessly out-dated constitution etc etc], we can be more innovative’. But the forces of conservatism are always there to drag us back.

Canto: And speaking of conservatism, or more like medievalism, how about Iran?

Jacinta: Well I don’t feel optimistic, at least not for the near future. Of course the enforcement of the hijab is pure oppression, but these male oppressors have been in power since 1979, and before that the Shah had become increasingly oppressive and dictatorial, so one kind of quasi-fascism was replaced by an ultimately more brutal religious version. The recent protests were sparked by the death of a young Kurdish woman in custody, but unrest has been brewing for some time, not just over the hijab and the disgusting treatment of women, but the increasingly dire economic situation.

Canto: Meanwhile Iran is supplying drones to Russia, to help them kill Ukrainians. WTF is that all about?

Jacinta: Well mostly it seems to be about the fact that both nations have an obsessive hatred, and I suppose fear, of the USA. So ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. That’s how the New York Times puts it, though I’d say it’s not just the USA, it’s democracy and ‘western values’. Iran and Putinland have worked together before, to decimate the opposition to that Syrian dictator, Whatsisface, for whatever reason. Interestingly, though the Iranian dictatorship’s support for Putin is another cause of domestic dissent – the Iranian people tend to favour the underdog, unsurprisingly.

Canto: And many of the most seasoned experts believe this war – essentially between Putinland and NATO, but with most of the victims being Ukrainians – could drag on for years. Putin is stuck with a predicament of his own making, having gotten away with similar behaviour in Chechnya, Syria, Georgia, and of course Ukraine back in 2014. This time has been disastrously different, but he won’t let go before killing as many Ukrainians as he possibly can. And having created a macho thugocracy, it’s likely his main adversaries within Putinland are those even more thuggish than himself.

Jacinta: Yes, all claims that he’s about to flee the country, or that he has testicular cancer of the brain or whatever, are nothing more than phantasy. Still, as we’re a little younger than he is, and imbibing a less toxic atmosphere, it will be a joy to witness his last end.

Canto: It’s funny but of all the current crop of malignant male ‘leaders’, the one that, for some reason, fills me with the most uncontrollable rage is Xi Jinping. I’m not sure why. I’m clearly not cut out to be a diplomat, my fantasies are way too nasty.

Jacinta: Hmmm. Possibly because he, and the Chinese thugocracy in general, are much more low key and business-like in their campaigns of oppression and mass-murder. Xi, of course, is an admirer, or pretends to be, of old Mao, the greatest mass-murderer of his own people in the history of this planet. I can hardly imagine Xi flying into a Hitlerian rage about anything. It makes him see all the more inhuman. I’ve been hoping, without much hope, that the USA – the only country Xi might be a little afraid of – would elect a female leader in the very near future, and that she would then slap him about in a well-publicised heads-of-state meet-up.

Canto: Haha, now that’s a fruitier fantasy I must say. So what about the USA, supposedly our ally? Are we supposed to accept their hubristic jingoism – with a pinch of salt? Clearly we want to be on their side against the different varieties of thugocracy on offer, but this obsession with dear leaders instead of parties and policies and negotiations and compromises and dialogue, it’s pretty tedious. Maybe we need female leaders to slap sense into all these partisan screamers….

Jacinta: There are plenty of female partisan screamers actually. With female leadership it’s a matter of degree. There are publicity hounds who make a lot of partisan noises, but most of them are male. Many of them are female of course, and I have no illusions about that, but all the evidence shows that by and large women are more into mending fences rather than smashing them, but that’s not what gets the publicity.

Canto: I do feel inspired, in a small way, about the Australian situation, arrived at recently, with a substantial increase in female representation in parliament. This has been ongoing, but the May Federal election has boosted female numbers substantially. 38% female representation, the highest in Australian history. Compare that to 27% in the US Congress, and 35% in the UK Parliament – another all-time high.

Jacinta: Well here’s a story, from the Washington Post:

New Zealand made history — or herstory — this week as female lawmakers became the majority, narrowly outnumbering their male counterparts in Parliament for the first time. On Tuesday, Soraya Peke-Mason was sworn in as a lawmaker for the Labour Party, tipping the country’s legislative body to 60 women and 59 men.

That was posted in late October. And there were more surprises, for me at least:

Only five countries share Wellington’s achievement, with at least half of lawmakers being women, among them Rwanda, where more than 60 percent of its lawmakers are women, Cuba (53 percent), Nicaragua (51 percent), Mexico (50 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (50 percent), according to data from the [Inter-Parliamentary Union]. The countries that fall just short of 50 percent include Iceland, Grenada and South Africa.

Canto: Well, that’s surprising, even shocking. We don’t think of many of those countries as being enlightened or particularly pro-female.

Jacinta: Yes we’ll have to do a deeper dive. I have heard good things about the UAE, I think, but not so much about Cuba or Nicaragua. Think of Latino machismo and all that. So I’ve been reading a piece on Cuba from a few years ago, and plus ça change… or I could say, lies, damn lies, and statistics. Here’s a couple of quotes:

As far as power dynamics go, the machismo mentality ensures that men receive the upper hand. All you have to do is walk down the street to see machismo at work. Catcalls, or piropos, and other forms of (non-physical) sexual harassment are unavoidable for women, even on a five-minute walk. This culture of machismo is deeply embedded in Cuban society and indicative of deeper, institutionalized gender inequalities as well.

And forget all that apparent parliamentary representation:

In actuality, employed women in Cuba do not hold positions of power—either political or monetary. The Cuban Congress, although elected by the people, is not the political body that truly calls the shots. The Cuban Communist Party—only about 7 percent of which is made up of women—holds true political power. Markedly, the systems of evaluating gender equality in other countries around the world aren’t universally applicable, as women are much less represented in the true governing body of Cuba than we are led to believe. In addition, the professions that are usually synonymous with monetary wealth and the power and access that come with it (doctors, professors, etc.) do not yield the same financial reward here. Doctors and professors are technically state-employed and, therefore, earn the standard state wage of about $30 per month. This means women employed in these traditionally high-paying fields are denied access to even monetary power as a form of establishing more of an equal footing with men.

Canto: Yes, cultural shifts happen much more rarely, or slowly, than we always hope….

Jacinta: So now to check out the UAE, where I expect to find my hopes dashed once more. But it seems the UAE definitely stands out, at least a bit, in one of the world’s most ultra-patriarchal regions. The website of the UAE embassy in Washington has a puff piece in which it proudly references the 2021 Women, Peace and Security Index, in which the UAE is ‘ranked first in MENA [the Middle East and North Africa] and 24th globally on women’s inclusion, justice and security’. However, it’s a Muslim culture, and culture rarely shifts much with the political winds, as DBC Pierre eloquently argues in a brief piece on Kandahar and the Afghan wars in volume 34 of New Philosopher. It might be argued that even Islam is a Johnny-come-lately in the tribal traditions of these desert regions. The Expatica website, which is designed to prepare workers for the challenges of living and working within a foreign culture, also argues that many of the political changes represent the thinnest of veneers. For example, female genital mutilation is still relatively common in rural areas, and Islamic Law is followed in the matter of domestic violence, to the detriment of women. This website claims the UAE ranks 49th in the world for gender equality, somewhat contradicting the embassy site, but without reference.

Canto: Hmmm. I’d rather work with bonobos. But they don’t really need us, do they?

References

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-63768538

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/26/new-zealand-women-parliament-gender/

Glimpses of utopia, by Jess Scully, 2020

https://www.britannica.com/event/Iranian-Revolution/Aftermath

https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2022/12/16/iran-questions-and-answers-about-the-situation-and-sanctions

https://data.ipu.org/women-ranking?month=1&year=2022

https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/posts/the-truth-about-gender-equality-in-cuba

https://www.uae-embassy.org/discover-uae/society/women-in-the-uae

‘Hidden truths’, by DBC Pierre: New Philosopher 34: Truth

https://www.expatica.com/ae/living/gov-law-admin/womens-rights-in-the-united-arab-emirates-71118/

 

Written by stewart henderson

December 23, 2022 at 9:20 pm

on national and other origins, and good leadership

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So Mr Pudding was going around saying that Ukraine wasn’t a real country for some time before he decided that he needed to abolish its nationhood once and for all, a decision that he clearly made well before the actual invasion of February 24 2022, as the long build-up on the border told us. The fact that he chose to call it a special operation was also a sign that he’d convinced himself that he was simply clarifying a border or territorial issue. 

Well, this issue of real countries and not-so-real countries has exercised me for a while, I suppose ever since I started to read history, which was a long time ago. 

How do nations come to be nations? Well, there clearly isn’t any general formula, but it more often than not involves warfare, rape, dispossession, and suppression of militarily weaker language groups and cultures. It rarely makes for fun reading. I could probably close my eyes, spin a globe of the earth around and if my finger stopped it on any piece of land, there would be a tale of horror to tell, in terms of the human history of that land, in, say, the last thousand or two years. 

I should also say that nations, or states, have been phenomenally successful in terms of the spread of human nature and human culture. My argument against libertarians who inveigh against their bogeyman, the state, and its taxes and regulations and encroachments on our personal liberties, is to point out that we are the most hypersocial mammalian species on the planet. We didn’t get to be 8 billion people, dominating the biosphere, for better or worse, by virtue of our personal liberties. Those personal liberties didn’t provide us with the language we speak, the basic education we’ve been given, the cities and towns and homes we live in, the roads and the cars and bikes and planes we use to get around, and the jobs we’ve managed to secure over the years. All of us living today have been shaped to a considerable degree by the nation-state we live in, and our place in its various hierarchies. 

So you could say that nations have become a necessary evil, what with the crooked timber of humanity and all. But it’s surely an indisputable fact that some nations are better than others. But how do we measure this? And let’s not forget the idea, advanced rather cynically and opportunistically by Mr Pudding, that some nations might be more legitimate than others. Afghanistan, to take an example almost at random, was for centuries a vaguely delineated region of various ethnicities – Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and others. Warlords from without and within have brought disintegration upon unification upon disintegration to its ‘nationhood’, while its mostly subsistence-level inhabitants have tried to avoid or ignore the mayhem. It’s likely that most of them don’t consider themselves Afghani at all, but stick to their own ethnicity. The Pashtuns of southern Afghanistan, for example, don’t pay much attention to the border that separates them from their Pashtun neighbours in northern Pakistan, so I’ve heard. And one has to ask oneself – why should they? The Durand line, separating Pakistan and Afghanistan, was created only in the late 19th century – by the British. So, is Afghanistan a real country? 

And since I find that Afghanistan has a population of almost 40 million, let me compare it to a nation of similar population. Poland is a north-eastern European nation, inhabiting a region long contested between two expansionist states – Prussia/Germany to the west and Russia to the east. One of the largest countries in Europe, it occupies less than half the area of Afghanistan. It had expansionist ambitions itself a few centuries ago, as the senior partner in the Polish-Lithuanian federation, which dominated the Baltic and often posed a threat to Russia, but in the 20th century it suffered terribly in the second world war, and fell under the domination of the Soviet Union in the aftermath. Of course, if you take the history back to the pre-nation period there were various cultures and tribes, generally warring, with the Polans being the largest. By the Middle Ages, this region had become an established and reasonably sophisticated monarchy, though often struggling to maintain its territory against the Prussians, the Mongols and Kievan Rus. Naturally, its borders expanded and contracted with the fortunes of war. The region, though, reached relative heights of prosperity when, as mentioned, it became the dominant partner of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, for a time the largest state in Europe. Its fortunes ebbed and flowed in the 16th and 17th centuries, but at the end of the 18th it was partitioned between the ascendent powers in the region, Prussia, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Poland was finally reconstituted as a nation after the 1914-18 war, but arguably the worst was yet to come…

So again, one might question – is Poland a real country? As a working-class fellow myself, my sympathies go to the ordinary people who grow up gradually discovering what land they’ve landed up in, and the various vicissitudes that have given it the territory and the borders that it currently has.

This is the central point of this post. People are more important than nations. It’s ridiculous to compare them really. And, without getting too much into the free will issue here, it’s obvious that none of us get to choose our parents, or the place and time of our birth. That old philosophical chestnut of being thrown into this world has always rung true for me, and that’s why I don’t get nationalism, though I understand nations as a social evolutionary development.

I’ve been lucky. I was born in Scotland in the 1950s and was taken, with my siblings, to Australia, on the other side of the world. I’ve never seen warfare. I’ve never lived in a thugocracy, and I don’t know if I’d have been aware of living in a thugocracy, had that been the case – that’s to say, if I’d never experienced an open society, in the Popperian sense. I could’ve been born in the 1950s in Vietnam, In which case I may well have been killed in my village or field during what the locals call the American War, and others call the Indo-Chinese War, in which upwards of 2 million died. Or I could have been born in the Soviet Union, thinking who knows what right now about Putin’s treatment of his own and other countries. And so on. If we could all bear in mind that our circumstances, in large, are not of our own making, we might think in less nationalistic terms and in more humane terms. We might even begin to understand and feel a modicum of sympathy for the hill-top gated-community denizens who have grown up convinced of their natural superiority.

So I think in more personal terms. How well are nations, states, communities, cultures serving their members? Whether we measure this in terms of the human rights universalised after the world wars of the 20th century, or the Aristotelian concept of Eudaimonia as reframed and refined over the centuries, or some other valid criteria, it’s surely obvious that some regions are doing better than others, by all reasonable measures. For the sake of human thriving, we need to sympathetically encourage open societies, as well as to stand up en bloc, against bullying and coercion everywhere. There is, of course, no place – no culture or society – where such behaviour is entirely absent, but it’s worth noting that the world’s most authoritarian states, including all 59 of those classified as such by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index (I prefer the term ‘thugocracy’), are led by men, whereas, of the top ten democracies, as judged by the compilers of that index, more than half are led by women. Now, there’s no doubt a ‘chicken-and-egg’ issue at play here. That’s to say, do inclusive, participatory, diverse and humane democracies encourage female leadership, or vice versa? The effect, I’m sure, is synergistic, and it’s a positive effect that needs to be spruiked around the world by everyone with the power to do so.

 

Written by stewart henderson

October 3, 2022 at 12:41 pm

on the history and future of human beans…

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… the oldest skull normally assigned to our species is almost 200,000 years old. It was found at Omo Valley in Ethiopia in the African rift valley. (In June 2017, human remains from Morocco were dated to 300,000 years ago, but their exact relationship to us remains uncertain).

David Christian, Origin Story p169

Canto: Dating the first Homo sapiens will always be difficult (I mean determining her provenance, not going out with her) because, like the first lion (Panthera Leo) or the first red kangaroo (Osphranter rufus) or whatever, she had parents, and great-grandparents, so when does any species actually begin? But apart from that taxonomic issue, the whole issue of dating, and classifying, hominins is obviously complicated by the dearth of fossil finds. In my reading and listening, the 200,000 year number usually crops up, in spite of the finding cited by Christian, which we’ve known about for some time. The Morocco site, specifically the archaeological site known as Jebel Irhoud, has yielded fossil remains since at least the early seventies, but a paper in Nature, published in 2017, relating to new finds at the site, controversially claimed a date of 315,000 years ago for skull, face and jaw bones of H sapiens…

Jacinta: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and it seems to me that the claims about early hominins, and especially the first of our species, will always be hotly contested because of that lack of evidence. Both the place, Morocco, and that early date are outside the known parameters for the earliest H sapiens. 

Canto: But Chris Stringer, a palaeoanthropologist of some repute, appears half-convinced, arguing that, with the new finds and better dating methods, ‘the Jebel Irhoud bones stand firmly on the H. sapiens lineage’. However, it’s not easy to find much discussion online about it since 2017. I did find a full copy of the June 2017 Nature article, referenced below, and the Smithsonian appears to be taking the older date as established. I quote from their website:

During a time of dramatic change 300,000 years ago, Homo sapiens evolved in Africa.

They don’t cite any evidence though. I mean, 100,000 years is quite a big gap. I presume there’s been a big search on in Morocco in recent years. The Smithsonian site also tells me most palaeontologists reckon H heidelbergensis is our direct ancestor, but the evidence is frustratingly scant.

Jacinta: Also, what does it mean to be human? I’ve often mentioned our hyper-social nature as something that sets humans apart, but were we hyper-social 300,000 years ago, or even 200,000 years ago? We’ve no idea, or not much idea, how we lived in that period – language, fire, tools, art, clothing, shelter… Did we congregate in large groups? How large, or small?

Canto: One site talks about ‘behavioural modernity’, dating from 65,000 to 50,000 years ago. That’s because there’s virtually no evidence – complex weaponry such as bows and spear-throwers, representational art, rough sculptures, bone flutes – of that kind of modern human stuff connected to earlier human remains. But the evidence from skulls suggests that our big brains were what they are now with the earliest versions of H sapiens. Skulls and genes tell us one thing, artefacts tell us another.

Jacinta: Yes, this Smithsonian site also suggests that human cultures, unlike other apes, ‘form long-term pair bonds between men and women to care for children’. They seem not to notice the rise of single-parent families in the modern era! Of course I’m hoping our WEIRD culture’s going the way of the bonobo – the women bonding together to raise the kids, with help from the odd metrosexual male. Is metrosexuality still a thing?

Canto: That’s so naughties…

Jacinta: But I really think that may be the next development – female power with men at last knowing their place as helpmeet. Lots of sex, fewer kids, and lots of collaborative scientific work to enable us to live better in a fragile biosphere, with a growing variety of other species.

Canto: Hmmm. Tell me more about the sex.

Jacinta: Haha well, what’s evolving is a drift away from religion as explanation, as we continue to pursue the history of our species, our planet, our galaxy, our universe, and considering those old religions were mostly born out of patriarchy and the male control of female sexuality, making a virtue of female virginity and prudery, sexuality will be released into the fresh air, so to speak. I mean, there will always be a power aspect to sex, no doubt, but with women on top, the empowerment will undergo an enormous, enlightening shift. I wish I could be there, in the vasty future, to witness it.

Canto: Dog knows we need more than a bit of female leadership right now, what with Putin, Xi Jinping, Orban, Erdogan, Bolsonaro, Kim Jong-un, Trump (still President apparently), Lukashenko, Bashar al-Ashad, Duterte, MBS, Raisi, some Burmese fucker, etc etc. We really need more ball-cutters.

Jacinta: Well, obviously, I agree. Back in little old Australia…

Canto: Quite young as a nation, but very old as a culture, odd that.

Jacinta: Not odd at all, actually. Yes, back here in a nation largely sheltered from the storm, we’re too small, population-wise, to be internationally despotic the way Putinland is currently being. But I’m happy that we’re joining the chorus of condemnation against Putinesque aggression. I’m just wondering if this is the future. This attack on Ukraine seems like a throwback, throwing us as far back as – well, Putin isn’t even an ‘enlightened despot’ in the tradition of Catherine II, or Elizabeth (Empress of Russia from 1741 until her death in 1762). He’s more like Peter the Macho Thug, whose reign certainly modernised Russia, but the women who followed him did a far better job of improving Russia’s internal state. It was of course a time of violence and warfare, and these women were always surrounded by macho advisers at a time when warfare was a way of life, but their record for internal improvement stands the test of time. Russia has never had a female ruler since Catherine the Great – and it shows.

Canto: Yes, I know it annoys you that these early female leaders are like anomalies – treated as honorary males, surrounded by male advisors and expected, in fact virtually forced, to continue the fashion of aggressive territorial expansion. But current female leaders are a different matter, and maybe the current macho thugocracies are a dying breed, trying to bring everything down with their last gasps.

Jacinta: Yes, pleasant fantasies indeed. But with the growth of global problems – global warming, air pollution, species loss, refugee crises (caused by those thugocracies, but also by climate change and the eternal tendency of animals to move from high-danger low-opportunity regions to regions of lower danger and higher opportunity) we need collaborative solutions, rather than macho weapons build-ups. Enough arguing, let’s collaborate, and if the men want to contribute, they’re welcome. If not, they need to be put in their place. We need to set our social evolution in that direction. The point isn’t to understand our human world, it’s to change it.

References 

David Christian, Origin story: a Big History of everything, 2018

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature.2017.22114

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317834148_New_fossils_from_Jebel_Irhoud_Morocco_and_the_pan-African_origin_of_Homo_sapiens

https://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils/species/homo-sapiens

https://theconversation.com/when-did-we-become-fully-human-what-fossils-and-dna-tell-us-about-the-evolution-of-modern-intelligence-143717

 

Written by stewart henderson

April 9, 2022 at 5:19 pm

not Russia, Putin

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The world’s fledgling democracies, or non-democracies, are prone to instability, just as monarchies were in the past, because they were so subject to the vagaries of fate, and of particular individuals and their circumstances. When England’s Henry V died of dysentery near Paris just shy of his 36th birthday he had, in less than a decade, stabilised his English estate and inflicted mortal blows on the old enemy across the channel. Had Henry survived his illness, he would almost certainly have been crowned King of France, and the ‘Hundred Years’ War’ between the two kingdoms would have been reduced to just under seventy. As it was, England was in its most powerful position, arguably, since William of Normandy dispossessed or killed off the Saxon nobility and established his vast fiefdom.

But with Henry’s death it all fell apart. His successor was a nine-month old child, who grew up to be extremely timid and completely ineffectual as a ruler. Though he was briefly crowned King of France (at age 10), England was plunged into the chaos of the Wars of the Roses, and soon lost all its French territories apart from Calais.

Democracy, for all its flaws – due largely to the crooked timber of humanity – is the only form of government that allows for, indeed guarantees, at least in theory, the peaceful transfer of power between successive ‘regimes’. Post-Soviet Russia has of course, no succession system in place. North Korea is essentially a monarchy. As to China, the succession will be up for grabs, fought out within a tiny, absurdly corrupt clique. Other tyrannies face their own unique uncertainties. And the people will be forced to suffer the outcome in virtual silence.

As a member of ‘the people’, the canaille, the peasantry, the great unwashed, the proles, the rabble, the riffraff, the parasitic masses, I feel fortunate to live in a democracy, because there’s just no realistic alternative for people who don’t want to be unexpectedly interfered with for no apparent reason. Democratic governments don’t generally go to war, and certainly don’t start wars, if they think it’ll lose them the next election, and since it’s obvious that most people want a peaceful, unchanging life, that tends to settle the matter.

Which brings me to Russia and its suffering people. For centuries they were subject to a succession of dynastic emperors or Tzars, much like those in the rest of the vast Eurasian continent. Interestingly, the best of them was the Empress Catherine, a ring-in from Germany, who had to get rid of her nogoodnik husband (by an arranged marriage), a dissolute sadist, before she could establish her right to the throne – to which she had no ‘right’ – since rights were essentially based on primogeniture after initial warlordy slaughter.

But allow me to digress again to Western Europe et al. The principles of government began to change over time in the proto-WEIRD world, with its beginnings going back, arguably, as far as Magna Carta and the first English parliament in 1215, and boosted by the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, with its indecisive victory for the parliamentarian faction. A half-century later King James II was forced into exile, and the first ever constitutional monarchy came into being. Over time, British governments gained ascendency as the power of the monarch waned, the concept of Prime Ministership evolved, and the voting franchise widened. Across the Atlantic, a new experiment in democratic government was undertaken, and of course in France a revolution went haywire, resulting in a new despotism under Napoleon, followed by a stumbling and backsliding course that eventually led to democracy by the end of the 19th century. Other European countries also experienced traumatic periods following the end of traditional monarchical or quasi-monarchical systems. Spain’s long monarchical period was often turbulent, but it looked like it had come to an abrupt end when Napoleon forced King Ferdinand VII to abdicate in 1808. After this the Bourbon monarchy-in-exile became a focus of resistance, but it soon lost support after the fall of Napoleon, due its extreme conservatism. Spain became a constitutional monarchy in the 1830s, but there were ongoing battles between political factions until the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1868 led to the ousting of Queen Isabella, the first truly reformist government in the country, and the creation of a Constitution promoting citizens’ rights. However, there was still plenty of political strife, and a coup d’état in 1874 restored the Bourbon monarchy. However, the new Constitution created an alternating system of conservative and liberal prime ministerships, which was innovative, though not exactly democratic. The relatively liberal constitutional monarchy limped on until Spain erupted in civil war, followed by the long, lost years of the Franco dictatorship. ‘Permanent’ democracy wasn’t established until the early 1980s.

I could go on with a fulsome account of the slow emergence of something like full democracy in Germany, Italy, the Baltic States and so on, but the overall point is clear – the old absolute power systems were not easily killed off and democracy struggled to get a foothold and should by no means be taken for granted as an established feature of the political landscape.

Now to return to Russia. Their absolute monarchy began, always arguably, with the murderous warlord now known, aptly enough, as Ivan the Terrible. Of course, warfare was a way of life in those days, but some took this way of life to ridiculous extremes. Ivan won some of his wars and lost others, as is the way, and the expansion and contraction of territories generally continued under his successors. So are nations arbitrarily founded (and losted) under absolute rulers. One of the features of Ivan’s rule was a 24-year Livonian War – Livonia being the territory now covered by the Baltic States, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Successful at first, Ivan failed as various surrounding forces rallied against him and the war severely depleted his military forces. Still, these and and other adventures no doubt have convinced Russia’s latest Tsar that these territories are an eternal part of Sweet Mother Russia, soon to be renamed Putinland.

Which brings me to Ukraine – but it would require a half-dozen books to do justice to the messy history of that country and region, even if only going back to the ancient Scythian kingdom, which covered not only modern Ukraine but much of south-western Russia. I’ll briefly mention the kingdoms, duchies, khanates, empires, republics and assorted noms de guerre associated with the region. After Scythia, there were the Slavic hordes, the Kievan Rus, the Golden Horde (mainly Mongols, at least at first), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the kingdom of Poland, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Crimean Khanate, the Ottoman Empire, the Cossacks, the Tsardom of Muscovy, the Hetmanate, the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire, the Free Territory of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (fighting both the Nazis and the Soviets), and, in 1991, independence from (then semi-Soviet) Russia.

So from 1991 on, Ukraine has been what might be called a proto- or wannabe-democracy (but aren’t they all?), rife with corruption – no doubt a hangover from the long Soviet years (imagine how long Putinland would last under a free press tightly protected by law). It reached its nadir under the grotesquely corrupt Pupin puppet, Viktor Yanukovych, who was chased out of the country in the heroic Maidan Revolution, aka the Revolution of Dignity, in 2014, no doubt to the nappy-wetting fury of our Vlad. It was this humiliation dealt out to Putin’s pal in Ukraine that led to the attack on the country later that year, and continued aggression leading to the current invasion.

So why has Putin gone so ‘overboard’ as to invade a country that has become increasingly uninterested in its ties with Russia and increasingly hopeful of joining the European Union and even, possibly, NATO, an organisation whose raison d’être is arguably the containment of Putin’s imperialist ambitions?

Well, to me, the NATO issue is a red herring. More important for Putin is the horror of Ukraine’s increasing democratisation, and its increasing indifference to Russia. There may be economic motives that I don’t know about (economics isn’t my strong suit, which is why I don’t own any suits), but the fact is that Putin is fanatically anti-democratic, and loves to surround himself with puppet thugocracies, as can be found in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Chechnya, North Korea and even China – obviously not a puppet regime, but just as thuggish.

And of course, Ukraine has a special importance to this wannabe Tsar, as a nation or region that has been in Russia’s sphere of influence for some centuries. But Putin has miscalculated majorly with this old-fashioned offensive. Ukrainians are a proud and fighting people, as the Maidan Revolution proved, and the vast majority have zero interest in kowtowing to the new Putinland. It’s already clear that the Ukrainians will not be cowed by this attack, and will not negotiate in any way with the aggressors. Most international observers are at a loss as to how Putin could have made such a monumental miscalculation, as he is generally a smarter thug than most. If Putin has a victory here at all, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. He will not be able to install a Yanakovich-style leader, as nobody of any credibility, inside or outside of the country, will support him. And many men, women and children will die because of this folly. Basically, Putin has already lost this one. And, due to all the sanctions, which I don’t particularly support, he will face plenty of unrest on the home front.

How this will now play out is anyone’s guess. Putin seems to me like a usually astute gambler who has suffered a brainsnap and gambled much of his political reputation away. He can’t now back out, and he can’t win. No reputable nation is backing him, sanctions will make him increasingly unpopular domestically, and he actually now looks foolish. The worry of course is that he’ll play his hand to the bitter end, and lash out with maximum force at everyone who opposes him. It would be nice to think that we’re seeing the tragi-comic end of the era of naked despotism, but of course there’s nothing comic about Putin’s antics and their horrific consequences, and let’s face it, the timber of humanity is extremely crooked in some instances, and that has its appeal to an alarming number of people. But at least with democracy, the consequences of such crookedness aren’t quite so devastating. In Putinland, that’s another story. We’re all hoping this will be Putin’s last stand, but on the domestic front, he’s far more familiar with the terrain. We, the international community, must make every effort to keep him in his box, and to support those in the former and hopefully future nation of Russia, whose hope and ambition is to deliver the fatal blow.

Written by stewart henderson

March 1, 2022 at 11:33 pm

resetting the electrical agenda

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the all-electric la jamais contente, first car to break the 100 kph barrier, in 1899

In his book Clearing the air, Tim Smedley reminds us of the terrible errors we made in abandoning electric vehicles in the early 20th century. Smedley’s focus was on air pollution, and how the problem was exacerbated, and in fact largely caused, by emissions from car exhausts in increasingly car-dependent cities like Beijing, Delhi, Los Angeles and London. In the process he briefly mentioned the electric tram systems that were scrapped in so many cities worldwide in favour of the infernal combustion engine. It’s a story I’ve heard before of course, but it really is worth taking a deeper dive into the mess of mistakes we made back then, and the lessons we need to learn. 

A major lesson, unsurprisingly, is to be suspicious of vested interests. Today, the fossil fuel industry is still active in denying the facts about global warming and minimising the impact of air pollution on our health. Solar and wind power, and the rise of the EV industry – which, unfortunately, doesn’t exist in Australia – are still subject to ridiculous attacks by the heavily subsidised fossil fuel giants, though at least their employees don’t go around smashing wind turbines and solar panels. The website Car and Driver tells a ‘funny story’ about the very earliest days of EVs: 

… Robert Davidson of Aberdeen, built a prototype electric locomotive in 1837. A bigger, better version, demonstrated in 1841, could go 1.5 miles at 4 mph towing six tons. Then it needed new batteries. This impressive performance so alarmed railway workers (who saw it as a threat to their jobs tending steam engines) that they destroyed Davidson’s devil machine, which he’d named Galvani.

If only this achievement by Davidson, before the days of rechargeable batteries, had been greeted with more excitement and wonder. But by the time rechargeable batteries were introduced in the 1860s, steam locomotives were an established and indeed revolutionary form of transport. They began to be challenged, though, in the 1880s and 90s as battery technology, and other features such as lightweight construction materials and pneumatic tyres, started to make electric transport a more promising investment. What followed, of course, with the development of and continual improvements to the internal combustion engine in the 1870s and 80s, first using gas and then petrol – the 1870s into the 90s and beyond was a period of intense innovation for vehicular transport – was a serious and nasty battle for control of the future of private road transport. Electricity wasn’t widely available in the early twentieth century, but rich industrialists were able to create a network of filling stations, which, combined with the wider availability of cheap oil, and the mass production and marketing capabilities of industrialists like Henry Ford – who had earlier considered electric vehicles the best future option – made petrol-driven vehicles the eventual winner, in the short term. Of course, little thought was given in those days to fuel emissions. A US website describes a likely turning point: 

… it was Henry Ford’s mass-produced Model T that dealt a blow to the electric car. Introduced in 1908, the Model T made gasoline [petrol]-powered cars widely available and affordable. By 1912, the gasoline car cost only $650, while an electric roadster sold for $1,750. That same year, Charles Kettering introduced the electric starter, eliminating the need for the hand crank and giving rise to more gasoline-powered vehicle sales.

Electrically-powered vehicles quickly became ‘quaint’ and unfashionable, leading to to the trashing of electric trams worldwide. 

The high point of the internal combustion engine may not have arrived yet, as numbers continue to climb. Some appear to be addicted to the noise they make (I hear them roaring by nearly every night!). But surely their days are numbered. What shocks me, frankly, is how slow the public is to abandon them, when the fossil fuel industry is so clearly in retreat, and when EVs are becoming so ‘cool’. Of course conservative governments spend a fortune in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry –  Australia’s government  provided over $10 billion in the 2020-21 financial year, and the industry in its turn has given very generously to the government (over $1.5 million in FY2020, according to the Market Forces website).

But Australia is an outlier, with one of the worst climate policies in the WEIRD world. There will be a federal election here soon, and a change of government is very much on the cards, but the current labor opposition appears afraid to unveil a climate policy before the election. The move towards electrification of vehicles in many European countries, in China and elsewhere, will eventually have a knock-on effect here, but the immediate future doesn’t look promising. EV sales have risen markedly in the past twelve months, but from a very low base, with battery and hybrids rising to 1.95% of market share – still a paltry amount (compare Norway with 54% EVs in 2020). Interestingly, Japan is another WEIRD country that is lagging behind. China continues to be the world leader in terms of sheer numbers. 

The countries that will lead the field of course, will be those that invest in infrastructure for the transition. Our current government announced an infrastructure plan at the beginning of the year, but with little detail. There are issues, for example, about the type of charging infrastructure to fund, though fast-charging DC seems most likely.

In general, I’ve become pessimistic about Australians switching en masse to EVs over the next ten years or so – I’ve read too many ‘just around the corner’ articles with too little actual change in the past five years. But perhaps a new government with a solid, detailed plan will emerge in the near future, leading to a burst of new investment…. 

References

Tim Smedley, Clearing the air, 2019

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/g15378765/worth-the-watt-a-brief-history-of-the-electric-car-1830-to-present/

https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-electric-car

https://www.marketforces.org.au/politicaldonations2021/

 

Written by stewart henderson

February 27, 2022 at 1:07 pm

what is electricity? part 2 – the mystery gets murkier

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Canto: So we were trying to comprehend early ideas about electricity as a fluid, which led Franklin to define two ‘states’ of the fluid, ‘negative’ for having a deficiency, and ‘positive’ for having an excess. He also called the negative state ‘resinous electricity’ and its opposite ‘vitreous electricity’. Presumably he thought the fluid was in a balanced state before these different elements started rubbing against each other.

Jacinta: And they were trying to regain this balanced state, which made the sparks fly?

Canto: Dunno, but let’s return to Britain, where Francis Hauksbee (1660-1713), a lab assistant to Isaac Newton, was being inventive with air pumps and pneumatic engines, decades before Franklin’s 1840s experiments.

Jacinta: I’d ask you what a pneumatic engine is, but I suppose that’d take us way off topic?

Canto: Probably. It apparently has something to do with compressed air, and some kind of energy derived from un-compressing it, or something. Anyway, air pumps were used to create vacuums, or relative vacuums. Apparently, Hauksbee, an ingenious instrument maker, noted that glass was a really good material for viewing experiments, and in 1705 he performed a remarkable experiment with one of his air pumps and that mercurial, and very dangerous element, mercury (though ‘elements’ in the modern sense, weren’t known or at least defined at the time).

Jacinta: I suppose elements wouldn’t have been defined until the atomic theory became a thing.

Canto: Anyway I’m betting that his experiments with mercury shortened Hauksbee’s poor life (he was accepted into the Royal Academy in 1703, just as Newton became its president with the aim of reinstating its grandeur, but he was given special ‘low class’ status). He’d created a version of Otto von Guericke’s electrical machine, made of glass, with air pumped out, and some mercury inside. He rubbed the sphere to create a charge, and the mercury glowed when he put his hand on it (the globe, not the mercury). Fantastical, but nobody knew what it meant, except that it could be used as a source of night-light, which actually happened, but much later.

Jacinta: But nobody had much idea about whys and wherefores at this time.

Canto: They presumably speculated. A similar phenomenon, in large, was St Elmo’s fire (he was the patron saint of sailors), a bluish glow around a sailing ship, or more recently, around an aircraft. We know now this is a form of plasma, the ionised state of matter. During thunderstorms the voltage differentials are greatest – it requires a particular differential for it to happen, and the shape of the body around which the light is seen is an important factor. Pointy objects create a more intense field (Franklin realized this). The violet-blue light is caused by the nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere.

Jacinta: Are you sure you know what you’re talking about?

Canto: I’m never certain about anything, that’s my vocation, or just my fate.

Jacinta: Pneumatic tyres are filled with compressed air, or gas. So that helps to understand what a pneumatic engine might be, maybe.

Canto: So Hauksbee had found a way to accumulate an electric charge, and in 1745, in Leyden, Holland, they found a way to store this charge – an instrument that came to be known as a Leyden jar. Let me quote from the scientific historian, Thomas Crump:

The so-called Leyden jar was simply a substantial glass chamber, with separate layers of metal foils on the inside and outside surfaces. The inside was charged by a metal chain connecting it to a charged body, which then lost its charge to the air.

And this was apparently the first capacitor. We’ve talked about capacitors and supercapacitors before, but of course we barely understand them. In any case this Leyden jar device allowed a lot of electrostatic potential to build up between the inner and outer surfaces – enough to kill small birds who came in contact. Nice.

Jacinta: Or were forced to come into contact. I know they tried it on monks too. Presumably they couldn’t find the nuns.

Canto: Anyway they now had some control over this electricity thing, even if they hadn’t a clue what it was. They had some idea as to how to create and release this electrical charge thingummy.

Jacinta: So now we come to Coulomb?

Canto: No, Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) first. I’m following Crump, for better or worse. But more importantly than people, it’s batteries we’re going to focus on now. And I’m not sure where to begin.

Jacinta: It was a term – battery I mean – first used by Franklin in 1749, but what he actually created were capacitors, devices that accumulated charge, until they were discharged. Batteries – I’m kind of guessing here – are devices that store charge more or less permanently, and can release charge in a controlled way, and be recharged in a controlled way.

Canto: And what is this thing called charge?

Jacinta: Well let’s continue to grope toward an understanding. So I’ll return to Franklin. He wrote a book, Experiments and observations on electricity, made at Philadelphia in America, published in 1751. His researches led him to believe that everything contained charge, positive and negative, but that they were almost always in equilibrium, a neutral state. Or the fluid, which could be ‘negativised’ or ‘positivised’ by friction, could be returned to balance by ‘discharging’ it.

Canto: And surely therein lay a mystery. How or why did this build-up of negativity or positivity get discharged? I just don’t understand it. Not just the discharge but the creation of the charge.

Jacinta: I suppose they – Franklin, Hauksbee and the rest – just made the observation and called it ‘charge’. From whence, ‘discharge’. Maybe you’re just overthinking it. They certainly didn’t know what was going on, they just noted this reliable cause-and-effect behaviour and sought to utilise it, and find out more about it. Anyway, keep on overthinking, it might be a good thing.

Canto: Okay, Franklin was exercised by the discharge side of things. He found that pointy objects – we now call them lightning conductors – were most effective at discharging this build-up of charge, and recreating neutrality, the safe, ‘natural’ condition. A great, practical solution for buildings. But he developed a theory of sorts, of zero-sum conservation of this thing called charge. Whatever was accumulated in, say, a Leyden jar, was restored on discharge, nothing gained and nothing lost. I think.

Jacinta: Well, here’s a quote from Crump’s book, which might unenlighten us further:

Franklin succeeded in giving Leyden jars both positive and negative charges, and showed that the force itself was stored in the glass of the jar with the charge being proportional to its surface area.

Canto: Yeah, that needs unpacking, if possible. The ‘force’ being stored, is that the charge? If so, why does he use different terms? Charge is either negative or positive, isn’t it? So he was able to give these jars either a negative or a positive charge/force, but not both at the same time, though it’s ambiguous in this quote.

Jacinta: What I think he’s saying is there’s this force, which we now call electricity, which can either be negatively or positively charged, and its strength will be proportional to the surface area of the glass jar. I don’t think he was giving the jar different charges at the same time, but how he knew that the charge was sometimes positive, sometimes negative, or what that even means, I’ve no idea.

Canto: Yes, I’m more confused than ever. Let’s try to understand Leyden jars a bit more. Apparently it was invented in 1745 by one Pieter van Musschenbroek as a ‘cheap and convenient source of electric sparks’. That’s from Britannica on electromagnetism. So, to be more precise about this first jar, it was a glass vial partially filled with water, which ‘contained a thick conducting wire capable of storing a substantial amount of charge’.

Jacinta: Presumably that ‘thick conducting wire’ corresponds to the ‘metal chain’ in Crump’s description. I don’t know what the water’s for.

Canto: And Britannica makes no mention of the ‘separate layers [how many???!!] on the inside and outside surfaces’.

Jacinta: Okay, here’s a simplified picture, which might help.

So, in this one there’s no water, but I’ve seen other pics that indicate a jar more than half-filled with water, so who fucking knows. Note that there’s one layer of tin foil on the outside and another on the inside. Note the metal rod passing through a cork into this evacuated jar, and then a wire, presumably of some kind of metal, connecting to the tin foil.

Canto: Is tin a good conductor?

Jacinta: Apparently so. Not as good as silver or copper, but better than lead. And please don’t ask me why some metals are better conductors than others. It’s so frustrating trying to learn from the internet, even when you know which sites to avoid. For example, take this statement on what I’d expect to be a reliable site:

Although Leyden Jars allowed the storage and dissipation of electricity, there were still issues present. One issue was the lack of energy from the charge. While it could only attract small objects like a bit of paper, that was all it could basically do. Also, it could only perform that function after the jar was charged, which also took lots of time.

And then this, from Britannica:

The Leyden jar revolutionized the study of electrostatics. Soon “electricians” were earning their living all over Europe demonstrating electricity with Leyden jars. Typically, they killed birds and animals with electric shock or sent charges through wires over rivers and lakes. In 1746 the abbé Jean-Antoine Nollet, a physicist who popularized science in France, discharged a Leyden jar in front of King Louis XV by sending current through a chain of 180 Royal Guards. In another demonstration, Nollet used wire made of iron to connect a row of Carthusian monks more than a kilometre long; when a Leyden jar was discharged, the white-robed monks reportedly leapt simultaneously into the air.

Canto: Hmmm. One of these descriptions is not like the other. Where’s Micky Faraday when you need him?

Jacinta: I can but do my best. Let’s get back to batteries, again. Franklin’s ‘battery’ was really a capacitor, as mentioned, a way of accumulating more electric charge, and temporarily storing it, until it was required for a sort of ‘big bang’ release, I think. You can do this with Leyden jars linked together:

The above ‘device’ was used for demonstration purposes back in the day. Franklin’s electrostatic machine, though, didn’t look anything like this. It was a mammoth device of cranks and pulleys, created with much help from his friends. The mechanisation was presumably for creating as great an accumulation of charge as possible. Crump writes that Franklin built a glass and lead battery consisting of eleven condensers connected in series – which is clearly not his electrostatic machine. And apparently it wasn’t a battery, either, at least not in the modern sense. And WTF is a condenser? Anyway, this confusion has gone on long enough. We’ll try to clear some of it up next time.

References

Thomas Crump, A brief history of science

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Hauksbee

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Elmo%27s_fire

https://www.britannica.com/science/electromagnetism/Invention-of-the-Leyden-jar

https://www.bluesea.com/resources/108/Electrical_Conductivity_of_Materials

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin%27s_electrostatic_machine

 

Written by stewart henderson

December 6, 2021 at 10:57 pm

me and Montaigne

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Montaigne’s better half

 

I have no more made my book than my book has made me

Michel de Montaigne 

Before I start on Montaigne, some remarks on the title of this essay. Many English teachers are wont to correct it to ‘Montaigne and I’, hohum, but as an English teacher myself and an iconoclast of minuscule proportions, I beg to differ. The idea is that ‘me’ is an object pronoun, and that using it as a subject pronoun (as in ‘me and Montaigne is good mates’) is simply incorrect. This is bullshit, technically speaking. There’s no such thing as correct English, or correct any other language. I’ve had run-ins with fellow teachers on this, and it’s very headache-inducing. One argument is ‘How can you call yourself an English teacher if you don’t believe in the rules?’ But the rules of grammar aren’t delivered from on high, by lofty teachers or grammarians. They emerge in a community of like-minded souls who want to communicate effectively. There are some 7000 languages (and falling) in the world, setting aside dialects within particular languages. Less than half of these have a written form that’s utilised regularly by the language-users. So they don’t have grammar books telling them what the rules are. The first English grammar book, which was little more than a pamphlet, was published in 1586, obviously long after the language started on the evolutionary path that it’s still on.

All of this is not to say that language teachers are redundant. Sticking with English, what we teach is standard English, the English that’s found in current grammar books and written in works of fiction and non-fiction currently. It has two slightly divergent forms – British and United Stater English. Now anyone who’s an avid reader of English literature, going back to Shakespeare, Chaucer and so on, and forward to Milton, Austen and Eliot (George or T S), will notice subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in the language – in orthography as well as syntax. And with the spoken form we’re less structure-driven, we change our language depending on who we’re talking to, and we accompany our speech with a variety of paralinguistic features. Language is as alive as we are, it grows and changes, and in ye olde days grammar texts and dictionaries had to be renewed regularly to keep up, but now we have the magic of the internet…

But getting back to ‘me and Montaigne’, this is now acceptable in speech, and mostly in writing, because it involves no ambiguity whatsoever, and, more importantly, because it has become common usage. On the contrary, to say ‘me went for a swim’ also involves no ambiguity, but it sounds wrong, for the sole reason that it hasn’t become common usage, though it might, sometime in the future. To argue that ‘me went for a swim’ is simply wrong because me is always an object pronoun is just a statement about current usage. ‘You’ is currently used as both a subject and and object pronoun, why not ‘me’? Of course, saying ‘me and…’ is more plebeian, while saying ‘…. and I’ means you’re more likely to have a six-figure income and live in a gated community (not a gaol), but unfortunately ‘speaking the King’s English’ won’t guarantee you a place at court, so don’t worry about it.

So, getting back to Montaigne and me, I first read a selection of his essays in my early twenties, and he’s been a touchstone for me ever since. I need to thank him for encouraging me to become a writer. His mixture of me me me together with reflections on history, politics, science (insofar as there was much decent science in his time) and human behaviour really struck chords with me. I think he once wrote something like ‘I write not just to explore myself but to create myself’, though I can’t now find the reference – but the epigraph to this essay comes close enough. Anyway, I think he also wrote something like ‘whenever I learn of another’s good or bad behaviour, I think ‘how is it with me?”, and if he didn’t write that, it’s clear from his writings that this ‘egoism’ is a major focus. It’s what inspired me – a positive egoism – and I’ve followed him in trying to create a better self through reading, learning, and writing about it all.

There’s a vas deferens, of course, between me and him. He inherited a castle and a whole lotta land from his dad, who was clearly the dominant parent for him. My dad once bought me a motorbike, and to my shame I never thanked him for it. By that time my parents had separated. My mother was the head of our household, the breadwinner, the disciplinarian and influencer, and sadly for me, very much the enemy. To use the phrase of the day, I came from a broken home. The major result of the various minor traumas I experienced at home and school was an excessive hatred of being told what to do. My mother, sensing that I needed some ‘male discipline’, and with a mortal fear that I might be homosexual, tried to interest me in a manly career in the military, or the police perhaps. I would have preferred a quick, painless death. Sometimes mine, sometimes hers. All the same she was a hard-working, successful woman, who turned her children into feminists without ever saying a word on the subject.

Anyway, I read, and lived in the different countries of the past. And so it continues, though over time I’ve moved from the worlds of Hardy, Austen and Stendhal (fond memories) to the Big Issues of politics, science and How We Are to Live, and I started to write, and to like myself as a writer, while always being a bit ashamed of my hubris.

And I encountered Montaigne. Thoroughly egoistic and yet kind of self-effacing. Que sais-je?, his Socratic motto, sort of summed it up, especially as it was worn as a medallion around his neck (but perhaps this was a conceit of the artist who painted his portrait). It made so much sense to me – I loved it. Now I’m trying to mine his essays for anything faintly bonoboesque, with little success so far. Montaigne, typically for his time, was absorbed in the affairs of men, and in his essay-writing retirement he loved to consult the ancient classics, all written by men. Montaigne did marry and have children, but we know little more than that. His father seems to have been a much more significant influence on him, at least as far as he understood it, than his mother, whom he barely mentions – but then, he seems to have been the subject of his super-rich dad’s humanist experiments. He was literally farmed out as a baby to one of the peasant families his father owned, presumably to experience the sweated labour of the indigent, but it’s doubtful that he learned much since he was back in the castle by age three. Another of his dad’s brilliant ideas was to force the lad to learn Latin by having all his servants and teachers speak to him solely in that language. Then at age six he was shuffled off to a boarding school headed by the leading Latin scholar of the day. He apparently performed well in his studies, perhaps on pain of death, albeit a very humane one. So with his aptitude, and especially his connections, he became a rising star in the legal and administrative world of his day, and was a member of the French king Charles IX’s court before he was thirty. He hob-nobbed with the aristocracy, finessing the then-toxic Catholic-Protestant skirmishes, and earned the respect of Charles’ successor, Henry III, as well as the future Henry IV, France’s greatest monarch.

Now when I look at Montaigne’s life and achievements, I think ‘how has it been with me?’ But seriously, what has always attracted me in Montaigne’s writing and outlook (exemplified also in Rousseau’s Reveries of a Solitary Walker – I had considered using a variant of Rousseau’s title for these essays, just altering one letter in the word ‘walker’), mutatis mutandis, is its discursiveness, its apparent willingness to follow a thought into all sorts of by-ways, so that you look up from the screen – in my case – and wonder, Jeez, how did I get here?

In any case, Montaigne’s marriage is a bit of a black box, and he has little to say of women in general. The upper aristocracy in those days tended not to marry for love of course, and his relations with his wife appear to have been cordial – if overly diluted cordial. There is at least one extant letter to her (Françoise de la Chassaigne by name, of doubtless unimpeachable pedigree), a short piece enclosing, for her own consolation, Plutarch’s consolatory epistle to his wife upon the death of their young daughter (Françoise ultimately gave birth to six daughters from two marriages, but only one lived to adulthood, and none outlived her). It’s a friendly if rather formal letter, and includes the line ‘Let us live, my wife, you and I, in the old French method’. I believe the French method may refer to cunnilingus, but perhaps not in this instance.

But this merry thought brings me back to bonobos. We’re emerging from millennia of patriarchy, in which men have been instructing their female inferiors how to behave. Plutarch, in the above-mentioned epistle, praises his wife for her womanly restraint in attending to her baby’s funeral – no over-the-top female caterwauling, an obvious sign of vainglorious insincerity etc etc. For some reason it all made me think of those bonobo females biting the penises of uppity males. And of the SCUM manifesto….

Written by stewart henderson

October 13, 2021 at 6:20 pm

a bonobo world: monogamy, heavy culture, gynocracy

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“our ancestors established the rule that all women, because of the weakness of their intellect, should be under the power of guardians”

Cicero,  Pro Murena

 

Boudica of the Iceni – to the life

Having been brought up in a disastrous monogamous relationship has given me a lifelong bias against monogamy – I should make this important admission from the start. Of course, I’ve since witnessed many successful and happy monogamous pairings, but I can’t help feeling that social pressures (and religious pressures, but those are gradually weakening in the WEIRD world) and long-term cultural expectations are acting as a kind of cement to relationships that could have been more open.

The recent dithering of our Australian federal government in finally legalising same-sex marriage (largely due to the composition of our federal parliament being significantly more religious than the general population) had me thinking in something of a blooming, buzzing confusion. My initial reaction was – what do they want to get married for? When I realised that one important reason was that marriage was supported by law in various ways – spouse inheritance for example – as well as being an important form of public recognition in the face of naysayers, I relented. But still – monogamy as the ultimate legal achievement?

As a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies, I felt energised by the sense around me that so many social mores were being up-ended. Dress codes became degendered, colour was in for everyone, and free love was in the air (up there just beyond my reach). It didn’t last, of course – no hippy parliamentarians, judges, business leaders in the nineties, or very few. Men in blue or black ties, women (the few who achieved such prominence) in stupid shoes, it all seemed horribly retrograde – one step forward and two steps back. Currently, there’s a lot of talk about community values – perhaps underlined by the current pandemic – but the hard shell of the nuclear family, with one or two parents, and the occasional grandparent – shows no sign of cracking.

As mentioned previously, I read Children of the Dream in my youth, hoping to find an alternative to nuclear family monogamy, long before I discovered bonoboism. The kibbutz world, though, had little about it that was organic or evolutionary. It was a devised, top-down socialist thingummy, and its ruling shibboleth – ‘from each according to her ability to each according to her need’ had an element of enforcement about it, while bonobos appear to have arrived at a similar system without a conscious thought. And there were/are other problems with the kibbutzim. It was essentially monocultural, though gentiles were allowed in, if they toed the line. Multiculturalism, and multicultural interaction and exchange, it seems to me, must be an essential feature of a successful human community in the modern world. In fact Israel is a country that shrieks failure in this regard – a failure that was essentially intended from the formation of the new state of Israel – to the despair, I should add, of many Jews with better intentions.

To continue on this theme of culture, I like the idea of the light culture/heavy culture distinction. I was born into a Scottish culture transplanted to Australia – about as far away from Scotland as the globe allows (though culturally not so much). This allowed me to dip in and out of the shallows of Scottish culture more or less at my leisure. My mother occasionally mentioned the hope of one of her offspring learning highland dancing or bagpipe-paying, but nothing came of it – though I wish I’d kept the kilt I was gifted at age thirteen or so, and had the chutzpah to wear it to school, and beyond. In any case, our move to Australia further lightened a culture that was already blended into a more generalised WEIRD world. This is important, as not all cultures are equally valuable – a controversial claim for some, but argued eloquently, for example, by Sam Harris in his book The Moral Landscape. I recently met a friendly New Zealander at an art event, a man who, by his features, I recognised as of Māori origin. When I mentioned this, he became almost aggressively negative. He wanted nothing to do with that culture, he’d come to Australia to escape all that. Of course I didn’t press him on any details, which left me free to speculate wildly. The Māori male has become a stereotype of macho toughness, a stereotype much-promoted by non-Māoris, according to Waikato University’s Professor Brendan Hokowhitu. However, stereotypes generally have some basis in truth. My first experience of Māori maledom was a bantering conversation in an Adelaide pub, which led to him grabbing my arm tightly and pushing his staring, tattooed face into mine. I was quite sober and quite sure I hadn’t said anything to offend any reasonable, or reasonably unreasonable person. I should also add that, physically, I’m a rather flimsy male specimen. However, I didn’t want to be humiliated, so I simply stared back at him, and waited for his whole-body erection to subside, which it eventually did. After which I managed to skedaddle with a modicum of dignity, only cursing that I hadn’t notified the bar staff of his behaviour.

This was heavy culture, it seemed to me, of the most physical type. Another quite different example, came to me via a highly intelligent young student whom I was tutoring on Zoom recently. She lived in Australia but English was her second language and I was helping her with its connotative aesthetics vis-à-vis essay-writing. In one essay she described returning to India for a holiday, and the culture shock she received, as a near-adult, in being confronted by her extended family’s adherence to the caste system. As a member of the Brahmin caste, and as a person who’d experienced years of relative egalitarianism in Australia, she was well placed to recognise the casual injustice, and the blindness to it, in her extended family’s behaviour. She tried to confront her elders about it, but of course as a teenager she lacked the status and the articulacy to be effective, and was only too happy to return to a future in Australia.

It seems to me that heavy cultures are invariably patriarchal, and monogamous, often punitively so for women. We can’t always blame religions, which are generally born into a patriarchal culture, which they then reinforce. Perhaps the most patriarchal culture in human history was that of the ancient Greeks, often described as the culture that gave birth to democracy, a ridiculous claim given its dependence on slavery and its treatment of half the population, or potentially half, since female infanticide was almost compulsory among them. Archaeologists digging up bones from that era have noted the overwhelming preponderance of adult male bodies over females, largely the result of an unofficial, and rather self-defeating, ‘no female child’ policy. The Romans were no better – no ancient Roman female, apart from the odd goddess, has ever been recognised for her sagacity or prowess in anything, as far as I’m aware. The Romans were apparently shocked, on occupying Brittania, to find that certain women there, such as Cartimandua and Boudica, wielded actual power over estates and armies. Tacitus, Caesar and Cassius Dio are, unfortunately, the only writers to have presented these women to the world, and being Roman, are highly unreliable sources. Boudica in particular has become a woman for all ages since her time, with portraits of her reflecting the shifting social attitudes towards powerful women through the centuries. It’s quite likely, though, that the Romans’ prurient interest in the warrior women of Britannia exaggerated their power and their numbers. With territorial disputes often descending into warfare, men would surely have been at the helm during much of Iron Age Britain. The epigraphic evidence is limited mostly to militaristic inscriptions, and there is a weighting of archeological evidence from the Romanised aristocracy at a later date. We have little idea of the lives and status of Briton women before the Roman ascendancy.

Of course we don’t need prior examples of somewhat more gynocratic cultures to mold our own, though it would help to inspire. We also need to be aware of what we’re up against, as if it hasn’t long been obvious. In Afghanistan, as I write, the new government appears to be cutting girls off from all but the most elementary education. How Greek can you get? And this is only the news that’s speaking loudest to us at present. Lack of opportunity for women at the highest level is a commonplace for virtually every country on the globe. And the fewer women there at that level, the harder it tends to be for them. And yet…

References

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/17/taliban-says-classes-resume-afghan-boys-no-mention-girls

 

Written by stewart henderson

September 18, 2021 at 8:00 pm